Kaiza Izakaya

Jackie McMillan
29th Apr 2023

Chef Jason Nguyen is a young chef going places. For diners in the know, he’s putting out a special omakase menu at his Enmore-based Japanese diner, Kaiza Izakaya. Booked directly through him on Instagram this $140/person experience meshes his childhood memories of Vietnam with the skills he’s gained in Japanese establishments like Sokyo and Chuuka. And gee these two cuisines mesh well in everything from raw Coffin bay oysters amped with fish sauce, vinegar, garlic, chilli, ponzu and shiso to baked versions with Happy Cow spiked with condensed milk and mayonnaise for a whisker of sweetness. Wrapped in a betel leaf, a cube of wagyu intercostal graded at 9+ proved my favourite. It had spent six hours in sous vide with the fat cleaned up on the grill. Dressed with peanuts and garlic, the flavours dance between Japan and Vietnam. A rose of radish and kingfish demonstrates standout knife skills with thin, glossy petals of raw fish set in a golden lake of yuzu, ginger, garlic and chilli oil. 

The two stars of the restaurant’s regular menu also make appearances. First a cigar of crispy eggplant ($21) plays with texture: the interior has familiar Japanese silkiness and black and white miso flavour while the crunchy surrounds are studded with unexpected puffed rice, spicy furikake and chives. Later a grilled lamb cutlet ($48/4) inspired by broken rice is marinated overnight in yuzu miso to grasp in your hand and drag through negi relish (Japanese long, green onion) and long red strands of chilli (ito tograrshi). 

The booze list stretches beyond what I’d expect for a suburban izakaya with interesting crafties like the pretty Yoyogi pale ale ($10) brewed under licence in Broadbeach with galaxy and two kinds of Japanese hops. The beers are backed by a surprising list of wines and sakes. We opted for the latter—Suigei Tokubetsu junmai ($88)—a mellow, chameleon-like drop that adapted well to what we were eating. No small ask in a menu that dances between dedicated charred squid yakitori with yuzu koshu, shiso and sour cucumber pickles, and creamy paradise prawn mouth-parties with fresh herbs, edible blooms, sate soy, salted toasted rice powder and lively chilli. I’ve left plenty to discover across this generously proportioned menu in the hope that you go and experience it yourself before chef makes an obvious progression to a pricier degustation-only restaurant somewhere else.